Sunday, January 29, 2006

Update on Lecture

Finally, I presented my lecture on the Palliative Medicine and Pain Management. It was good. I was afraid as it was supposed to be in Arabic, and I haven't used that language for any scientific reason in ages. But overall went well.
A good number of doctors attended and the room was crowded, my new fiancee also attended :)
I hope this will be the begining of a new series of lectures for medical education.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Like many people this year, I bought a lottery ticket. The jackpot was 60,000,000 SP. Rouhgly one million dollar (when the $ jumped to that price). It has been a long time since I did anything of this sort. That didn't change my winning luck. Nil.
So I lost the ticket price (600 SP), but some may assess their loss in a different way. And here I recall the following story (and for those who don't know, we buy lottery tickets before the draw, like any other country):
A Homsi approched a lottery seller and asked him: can you check this ticket for me, did I win or lose?
The seller says: you lost.
Homsi: really, what is my loss..
Seller: its price of course.
So the Homsi pays him the ticket price and walked away happily. A friend ran into him and saw him smiling and cheerful, so he asked: what makes you so happy?
Homsi: I bought a lottery ticket, but lost.
Friend: and why should that make you glad?
Homsi: you fool, I lost only its price, imagine what happens if I lost the Jackpot!!!
So I think I will wish someone better luck next year, because I am not doing it again.
Any it was so amusing to check the winning numbers and match the tickets with them. As my dad was analyzing how two numbers matched here or one there (although we both know how useless an "almost win" is) I recalled a recent blog entry by Omar about the same issue.
Good luck to all lottery gamblers.
By the way, winning in Vegas has a better chance than lottery, at least in my opinion.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


I will be presenting on "Palliative Medicine and Principles of Pain Management" next Friday as a part of the educational agenda held by the St. Louis Hospital.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

أمثال شعبية 2

هذه حفنة أخرى من الأمثال الشعبية أرجو أن تعجب القراء. عسى أن تجد طريقها إلى الاستخدام اليومي
وبالمناسبة، أجوبة الأمثال السابقة ستكون في قسم التعليقات والردود
1- عنّ عنّ وبعدو ثابت
2- إذا قلك الديب ماع، لا تصدقو
3- تلت المرجلة أكل القتلة
4- مافي يا عمو... إي لكن بدي ياه
5- الحكي مو لكنّتي
6- غراب وغرابة، حمام وحمامة
7- جوعان ومجنون
8- صايرة معي، بس هداك علاك
9- صوص فايش
10- إذا كيلوتك أصفر لا تنادي غيرك شخاخ
11- موه موه، الله يكسر هالإيدين
12- أيتها الساقطة، موتي
ونزولاً عند الطلب الشعبي......
13- يا طيز ما عاد وسعك حفاض و
14- طلق الخرى مرتو

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


The other day I was watching the movie Shrek on MBC3 satellite channel. I believe that almost everyone have seen the movie already. MBC3 is a children channel that plays cartoons and kids movies.
The movie was at its end and there is the scene where Shrek goes into the church to prevent the marriage of Princess Fiona to Lord Farquad. All of a sudden the ogre says that he loves her and she starts transforming into an ogre. It didn't catch my attention at first but then I realized... where is the kiss? Some asshole has edited the movie.
For god's sake, it's a kid movie. Animations like this are classified G in USA by the MPAA. The MPAA puts labels on each movie that tells which age group this movie or show is suitable for. And here is the irony. In our "religiously and politically correct" TV channels kisses are forbidden, a simple thing like a kiss is not to be a pleasure for the eye of the beholder. Nudity isn't allowed too but that is understandable. On the other hand, not a single channel bothers to edit or import an already edited movie to make it suitable for general audience. What I mean by this is that all tabooed word such as "fuck", "bullshit", "asshole", "dick", "pussy", and so forth are easily recognizable in every single movie playing around the clock.
In the United States, "the country of indecency and corrupted morals", if a word like those mentioned above is uttered the channel would be tried and fined and all sort of things happen such as angry parent letters and others, including an apology from the channel itself.
But here a simple thing is censored forgetting all the nasty words – that kids learn by heart – as long as they are translated into "تباً" or "سحقاً", or simply they don't get translated. They never think for a moment to "beep" or omit these words from the dialogue. That is too much for the Arabian censor.
And on the other hand, there is no reason why "thought" or "imagination" provoking clips full of ass and boob shaking should be edited or even smoothed to represent an oriental atmosphere.
Nevertheless, Jad Choueiri finally did it... and he beats the Censorship. Introducing the first kiss in an Arabic video clip – possibly available on Melody TV website. Some said it was a French kiss, and some said it is a Spanish one (although I don’t know what is it), but I thought that one had no language. And is finely explained at the end with the segment saying and I quote "هأعمل اللي براسي، لو كان النقد قاسي".
Any prediction for the future??

Monday, January 16, 2006

أمثال 1

خطرت لي فكرة تحوير بعض الأمثال الشعبية على سبيل التسلية، على مبدأ ما لو أن حشاشاً كان يرددها على طريقته.. طبعاً كان لا بد من استعمال بعض المفردات النابية.
وعلى كل حال، إذا تعسر معرفة المثل الأصلي الرجاء عدم التردد بالسؤال. كما أني أرحب بالإضافات.
1- إن ما كنت عو أكلك عو
2- الباب المشقوق بينسد
3- ابن القحبة زين
4- مين ضربني بالسهم؟
5- تم الأم مثل الجرة
6- عين ما شافت، قلب ما دق
7- مطرح الفرح ما بيآوي حزانى
8- واحد.. أي، اثنين.. أي، ثلاثة.. أي
9- خبص ليخلص عمرك
10- المهرج الأقرع بيخوِّف
11- عوعو... بعِّد عن الطريق
12- عطيه ليرتين ودير بالك
13- معلّق وتحتو خرية
14- زين؟ عجّل لكن
15- ما ضربتو، ابن الحرام
16- بآخر الحفلة شخينا من الضحك

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Salt: A World History

To start with answering the question by Halim, I am OK.
Ever had to buy a newspaper for 5 SP and had nothing but 500 SP and questioned yourself whether to buy it or not and stand the hassle of the seller complaining of having no change??? What is the matter with this change thing? And the worst thing is that if a seller has no change, most of the time he will send you on a holy crusade to find a change for a big bill that no one will do for you, because everyone wants to keep change for himself. And it is almost as if those storekeepers don't care if they sell you or not as long as they don't bother themselves. Too bad we don't have debit cards up and running here.
This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I needed a newspaper for home, and had a single paper currency of the 500 SP order. To save myself sellers whining I usually look for something else that is a bit more expensive to buy. This time I was browsing the magazine racks and my eye fell on this book mentioned above. Why would one want to write about the history of salt?? It was interesting to see this one. The book is one of the known series "عالم المعرفة" from Kuwait, A monthly periodical featuring translated books of importance.
The interesting thing about this book is that 43,000 copies were printed. This is of course targeting the 200 million Arabs or more in the Arab world. Meaning that one out of 465 persons is expected to buy a copy. I am sure the ratio is way less than this; because Arabs are avid readers (I can't help myself smiling when I write this). And the biggest proof of that is that if you look most new books that are printed in Syria at least, a first edition book has only 1,000 copies printed. Only one thousand!!! That is one book for every 18,000 Syrians. And some people are proud they made to the second edition print...
Anyway, to finish talking about the book, it is an interesting one. It never occurred to me that salt could be a product that is expensive, can have serious taxes on it to help sponsoring wars and such, can be the subject of wars, or be important as to be almost considered a precious thing. The book goes over way of producing salt in the old ages and until now, occasionally food recipes, and the relationship between salt and hunting, fishing, wars, slavery, food, politics, economy, and others. An interesting read for those interested.
The only bad thing about it is that the author (Mark Kurlansky) jumps in time back and forth as if he has the ultimate time machine, which is headache-producing at times. I hope some will find this helpful. And I hope we start to see more prints of local books in the future.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

كلب بيت الأشقر

على مائدة الغذاء اليوم، ذكر أبي مثلاً لم نسمعه من قبل ويستخدم فقط في صافيتا. وكان ذلك ضمن سياق الممازحة لأخي وخطيبته.
يقول المثل: "صار فيه متل كلب بيت الأشقر". وأصل الحكاية كما يبدو أن عائلة الأشقر كان لديها منزلاً عالياً وعندهم كلب مربوط برسن. وكانت في الأرض أسفل المنزل كلبة، وعلى ما يبدو أن كلبنا المذكور - كلب بيت الأشقر - كان مولعاً بها وربما كان شبقاً أو ما شابه. فما كان من أمره إلا أن رمى بنفسه من علٍ كي يصلها وبذلك جنى على نفسه بأن شنق برسنه وانكسرت رقيته.
وهكذا فإن المثل يطلق على كل من أدت امرأة لتحطيمه أو تدميره....
ولكم طول البقاء

How to Congratulate People in 2006

1- Wake up with half opened eyes and a zombie look on your face.
2- Reach for your mobile.
3- Return the Remote control and try to reach again for your mobile
4- This time Reach for Your mobile, not your brother's
5- Look at the time and say: "Damn, is it still that early!? Let's wake up some other people".
6- Go to messages option
7- Type "Happy New Year"
8- Send it to every one you know on your contact list
9- Go back to sleep
10- Wake up every 3-4 minutes to read replies

Monday, January 02, 2006

New Year Eve

A New Year starts, carrying with it new hopes, shit and bla bla etc...
I promised to write an account of how we said goodbye to 2005. We probably didn't. For a month or so from now on we will mistake the year when writing the date for example. So it is a transition more than a change.
My plan was to go with my friends to a New Year party. The habit here is Xmas with family and New Year with friends. I placed minor efforts in picking the place or making reservations, instead I played a passive role. My friends took care of it. I discover three hours before midnight that my parents are celebrating in the same place: The Orient Club "نادي الشرق".
Each was on his own so I went to my friends' house and waited... then waited... and waited some more. By the time it was 11:40 PM I had very little patience and apologized to go ahead of them and celebrate the New Year with my parents at least. My instinct was right and I arrived way before my friends who made it after midnight. I think each had it best as I spent the midnight with my parents, on the dancing floor, fully dressed including a wool coat on top of my suit in the middle of a hundred people dancing in a very tight place. Needless to say I was sweating like a marathon runner. My friends also made it to midnight with their family and then came.
The music was by a band called "Freedom". They ignited the atmosphere with energy, but did one bad thing. The countdown to hour zero was mixed with the singing to the point that no one noticed. The next ten minutes was filled with requests like "Hey, it is 5 past midnight, when are you going to do the celebration. So finally at 10 past 12 the band again played the countdown and people celebrated. It must be real midnight at 12:10 AM somewhere in the world anyway.
The food was good especially the cake. But that was of secondary importance as I ate before I go and was busy dancing.
The dancing stage is no more than 10x18 feet and should fit something like 300 people or more. And as a matter of fact there is no place for even a shadow, so if you are dancing with someone you really like be sure there will be lots of friction. The same thing applies if you are dancing with you don't like much.
Dancing was a challenge then. There wasn't much dabkeh, a decent place for dabkeh to start with. But when they played it five or six small group of dabkeh were formed. If Tony Eid saw that he would have had a heart attack. I took the tailship (as opposed to leadership) of one of the lines. Where are the glory days of Cleveland and my partner in crime Wael??
Anyway, the party was nice, we danced a lot and took some breaks. The music was so loud that you can barely hear your thoughts, so a break is a must. Maya showed for a few minutes or so. Then a belly dancer "Shalimar" came to perform few dances. She was good and the hall was full of people cheering, with lust and excitement I should say. It is rumored that she got paid 150,000 SP for the session. And given the fact that she has more than one party to "cheer", all girls should think of changing their profession وذلك عملاً بالمثل القائل: اشتغل رقاصة يالله...
I finally returned home at 4 AM, slept like a bear in winter time, then woke up as if nothing has changed.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

... And A Happy New Year

And what the heck, New Years are new until they are 365.25 days old.
So at least let us enjoy it, and may you win the lottery.
Yeah right...
... and a happy New Year.
Piece on earth. There must be a piece somewhere.
Welcome to the new psycho year, as I predict it.

Goodbye 2005 (A Psycho Song)

At twelve midnight, when the bells sing
You will die and rest in peace
And the things you did in your life
Will be soon a hist'ry piece.

You have caused a lot of earthquakes
Hurricanes and tsunami
Killed many people, some by mistake
How come you have missed on me?

Two O O five, yes you bastard
Have you done anything good?
Left many homeless, and many beaten
And many millions without food.

Killed new hopes and screwed the old ones
And did all that with a smirk
Maybe you meant well but failed us
But we won't cry on spilt milk.

With a New Year these are new hopes
Mister O six, do you hear?
You will be young then you grow up
So please don't show us your rear.

As you do in your early days
You will behave all the rest
So behave and don't forget us
We wish you will do your best.

Xmas Home

This is the first Christmas in 7 years I spend with family here. It has been a long time since then, and definitely I have, as others have, grown. I don't know whether we have outgrown the occasion or not. I still consider it a Day for kids, but so what, I am only a big one. But still, it loses some of its shininess and spirit as most of my relatives, if not all, have grown big. The last big gathering was last year I guess, when my granny was still alive. Now mourning the occasion without her replaced it, at least in some households.
But as life goes on we had more than one reason to have a nice celebration. The same food being made over and over again is prepared. With huge crowds around the dining table, or "lunching" table, on the day before and after Xmas.
Finding the Christmas gifts for parents did not carry with it the same excitement and anticipation. But we did it after all with success I may add. The most important thing is that we were all together: Dad, Mom, Me, and my Bro who came from abroad and his fiancée (who always get threatened by me that I will write something criticizing about her in my blog).
Visiting all the relatives seems like a must more than a pleasant occasion. Well I always see them but the fact this is more formal makes it different. I used to spend the whole day of Christmas and after going from one house to another to visit my friends (who are all now in US while they left me come back, LOL).
It is the occasion that lost some of its uniqueness or me who lost the occasion, or is it both?

Marmar (Introduction to Syrian Nightclubs)

So, I haven't been here for a while now. But as the New Year approaches and the current one prepare to let its last breath (and I swear I have nothing to do with it), I thought I should let out everything I have before we start again at page one.
Two days ago I went with a group of friends to Marmar, probably one of the first nightclubs in Damascus. And for those who don't know me very well, I am not much into nightclubs. But let's talk about this one.
The first thing we wanted to do is check another nightclub, a new one called "Domino", located, as usual, in Old Damascus. It feels like the whole old town is going in the next few years to transform into restaurants and cafes. All are crowded and function day and night, hot or cold. This one was apparently crowded so we took off to Marmar.
I presume that the context is the same. There is a bouncer at the entrance who collects cover charges "دخولية". A bouncer and cover charge are the last things I expected here, and it felt out of place. I know some will say just be more flexible or what's wrong if we had these or that is what a nightclub needs, but hey that is my opinion.
Anyway, inside is an old house transformed into a bar and tables with young people sitting around and drinking. The atmosphere as you may expect reeks of smoke, and I did too after we left. Loud music is a must too, but only few danced, relatively speaking, in comparison to foreign nightclubs. It looked more like a pub than a nightclub if it wasn't for the dancing.
People there are of all kinds, mainly young, maybe yuppies. A famous singer came a little bit with her group. Dress code is casual, and as I was in the working costume, minus the tie, I felt much overdressed. The table next to us had a girl with two dudes, or should I say: a bitch with two pimps. At least this is how they looked like. Her clothes were probably suitable for a pub in the western hemisphere but here it looked out of place. That didn't prevent all of us (boys and girls) from staring at her one string covered back, uncovered belly, and half hidden G-string; or should I say half "deliberately" shown G-string. Her dance style is حدث ولا حرج and I leave it up to your imagination to figure out. Now this is a place where you should go if you want to hold a conversation, at least a serious one, shouldn't go if you don't like drinking, and shouldn't go if you like peace of mind. Doing it once in a blue moon may not be that bad, but I wouldn't if I have the option.
One good thing that came out of it is seeing some old friends or folks. And sure enough if you have been in this part of the world for a good deal of time you will run into someone you know, as certain group go to certain places.
One thing I know for sure is that I miss the old outings to popular places like the old days. It feels artificial to be in these places here in Damascus. But again, the gang I used to go out with is not here anymore. Life goes on and we must change and adapt, at least I.